I love a good British romance and although MOTHERING SUNDAY is a bit of a slow burn, it is a sexy, intriguing, and cerebral watch. Directed by Eva Husson and adapted for the screen by Alice Birch (NORMAL PEOPLE), it is clear that this film was shot through the female gaze, which is important because the story centers around how one momentous day and relationship shaped a female artist’s life and craft. And of course, I was obsessed with the sizzling chemistry between Josh O’Connor (THE CROWN) and Odessa Young (THE STAND), which permeates through every scene even after they part. It gives BRIDGERTON mixed with DOWNTON ABBEY vibes.
Based on the 2016 novel by Graham Swift, the story takes places in the aftermath of World War I. Jane (Young), the maid for a very wealthy and aristocratic English family, is given the day off for Mothering Day (Mother’s Day in the U.S.). For years, she has been having an intense, secret affair with Paul (O’Connor), the son of a neighboring affluent family, and is excited to have a romantic day alone with him. Unfortunately, Jane knows that her relationship with Paul can never go much further because he is engaged to Emma, who he agreed to marry when his brother (her original betrothed) died in the war. When the two part ways, Jane doesn’t realize how much of an impact this single day will have on the rest of her life, and how it will contribute to her future work as a lauded author.
Although O’Connor and Young’s onscreen time together is not very long, I believed in the power of their relationship from the second the film started. Both actors have amazing chemistry, so much so I wanted even more scenes of them together. It was this relationship, Sandy Powell’s magnificent costumes, and Jamie Ramsey’s gorgeous cinematography, with beautifully composed shots that showed the enormity of the English manor interiors and landscapes, that really take the film to the next level.
My one criticism about MOTHERING SUNDAY is that the non-linear storytelling can at times be a bit confusing. Upon a second watch, it will be a lot easier to see where the different elements of the story are taking place within the timeline, but when you’re watching it the first time, it may be a bit distracting trying to put everything together in your mind. And if you came to see a meaty role for Colin Firth and Olivia Colman, change your expectations. Both actors are not in the movie long, yet still make the most out of the scenes they are in, especially Colman.
MOTHERING SUNDAY is a steamy, welcomed contribution to the period romance genre, with a distinctly female point of view that is imperative in a story like this. The emotional scenes, which show the impact of loss, really pack a punch and will linger with you. If you’re a fan of period romances, MOTHERING SUNDAY is a welcome addition to the genre.
My Review: B